COVID-19 support for the tourism sector

Find out what support is available to help tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands and Islands

Tourism and hospitality support and guidance 

For the most up to date information and support relevant to tourism businesses, visit the Find Business Support website.

The site includes information on: preparing to reopen tourism businesses, applying for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19; social distancing – what this mean for your business; business rates (non-domestic rates) changes and extra rates relief; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the job Retention support and deferring VAT and Income Tax payments, and business closures. 

We’ve set out some of the key funding schemes available below, but please ensure you explore the Find Business Support website to see the full range of support available that you could be eligible for and guidance on opening up safely.

  • Updated 11 January: Support for leisure, retail and hospitality businesses has been increased through the Strategic Framework Business Fund. If your business is required to close by law or to significantly change its operations due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can apply for grant funding. In addition to the grants businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, eligible businesses will also get a one-off grant.

    Hospitality businesses: £25,000 for larger hospitality businesses on top of the 4-weekly £3,000 or £6,000 for smaller hospitality businesses on top of the 4-weekly £2,000.

    Retail and leisure businesses: £9,000 for larger retail and leisure businesses on top of the 4-weekly £3,000 or £6,000 for smaller retail and leisure businesses on top of the 4-weekly £2,000.

    In most cases, eligible businesses that have already applied for the 4-weekly payment from the Strategic Framework Business Fund will get an automatic top-up. For the majority, this top-up will be combined with the next tranche of payments for the Strategic Framework Business Fund due to go to businesses on 25 January. Check if you're eligible.
  • Updated 04 January: The COVID-19 guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector has been updated, including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

  • Updated 18 December: Bounce Back Loan Scheme The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year. The scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.
  • Published 05 December: Campervan and motorhome waste disposal guidance (PDF) has been jointly produced by Highland Council, SEPS and Scottish Water to assist communities, businesses and other organisations who are seeking to respond to the increased infrastructure challenges around responsible disposal of waste water, some of it chemically treated, from campervans’ onboard toilets and drains.
  • Updated 05 December: Traveltech for Scotland is a new organisation launched on 18 August to help Scotland’s beleaguered tourism sector make a sustained recovery driven by technological innovation. It will build a support network for travel technology pioneers whose ingenuity could help turn the sector around following the devastating impacts of Covid-19. The The Scottish Tourism Toolkit has now been turned into an online directory in collaboration with Traveltech for Scotland and went live 04 December. You can also follow the conversation on twitter using #ScottishTourismToolkit 
  • 23 October: Proposals for tourism recovery The Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce has published its recommendations for supporting the sector’s recovery from COVID-19. The taskforce was charged with looking at what priority rescue measures both the Scottish and UK governments can take to bolster recovery. The group’s recommendations, which will now be carefully considered by the Scottish Government.
  • 10 July: Technology solutions for visitor attractions and experiences in a post-COVID-19 Scotland - as part of a project initiated by the Destination Leaders Programme, a small group of experienced tourism professionals have spent the last month looking at how different technologies can help visitor attractions and experiences in Scotland adapt and diversify in a post-COVID-19 world. The outcome of this research is an interactive toolkit, available from VisitScotland's website, to give attractions and experiences inspiration and ideas, as well as recommendations and solutions.
  • 06 July: VAT - reduced rate for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions - if you’re a VAT registered business, check if you can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality, accommodation, or admission to certain attractions.

  • 10 June: New Scottish Recovery Tourism Task force set up further measures have been announced by Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing to support Scotland’s vital tourism industry. It will assist with the ongoing reset of the sector.

Please also look at our main financial support page for our most up to date list of all UK and Scottish Government support packages. 

Closed funds

  • Hotel Support Programme closed to expressions of interest on 09 September. The core purpose of the Hotel Support Programme is to protect sustainable employment in the medium term within larger hotels in Scotland. It is highly targeted and can be used alongside other COVID-19 support schemes.
  • 29 July: £1m Self Catering support fund has now closed. 
  • Fund closed to new applicants 10 July: The Bed and Breakfast Hardship Fund is being administered through local authorities. If you have any queries about this fund or your application, please contact your local authority directly. 
  • Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund This fund has now closed.
  • Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund - This fund has now closed. 


Update 25 June: We're Good To Go

VisitScotland Partners with National Tourism Bodies to Launch Industry Standard for UK Tourism.

A new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike, as the sector works towards reopening has been launched. 

To obtain the mark businesses must complete a self-assessment online at including a checklist confirming they have put the necessary processes in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing, before receiving certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in their premises and online.

Apply online today

Moment for Change - Get Tourism Ready

VisitScotland has created a useful list of guidance, including what has been issued by the Scottish Government, to help the tourism industry get ready to restart.

Currently, we know that most tourism businesses should plan for either 03 July (self-catering only) or 15 July to resume operations. How you prepare to reopen as part of the route map to recovery is crucially important.

Guidance includes:

  • Scottish Government guidance on the steps to reopen
  • Get Tourism Ready checklist of the main things you should consider
  • Guidance available from sector groups
  • Information on the Good to Go industry standard and consumer mark

Go to

Back to Business Webinar: Restarting the tourism sector

Senior representatives from Business Gateway, HIE, VisitScotland and the Midlothian & Borders Tourism Alliance participated in our 'Restarting the tourism sector' webinar on Wednesday 24 June.

The live discussion looked at what we know so far about how the tourism sector can open up whilst still working within the guidance and restrictions caused by COVID-19. Don't worry if you missed it, the full recording is available below.

Playback webinar

Read more +

Tune Into Tourism - Road to Recovery

We're encouraging you to tune out of the high volume of webinars and online meetings, and tune in to our series of podcasts. Catch up on all the episodes in our 'Road to Recovery' series.

Tune into Tourism

Cyclist stopped on the hills taking a picture of the scenic view on his mobile phone at Cairngorm National Park

National support for tourism and hospitality businesses

We recognise the extreme impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating in and reliant on the tourism sector across our region. We're working closely with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and our partner agencies to make sure all businesses impacted are represented as available support is developed.

The Scottish Government continues to develop support packages which are being provided by a range of public agencies, local authorities and partners. Daily updates are also available from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and VisitScotland.

exterior shot of Knockomie Hotel

Knockomie Inn

Find out how this Forres Inn is restarting its business after lockdown.

View case study


Rebuilding Scotland's tourism industry together

The COVID-19 National Action Plan has been published and continues to be updated as we progress through the different phases of easing out of lockdown. 

The recovery of the crucial £11 billion tourism industry requires a multi-agency approach, working with the tourism industry to help those affected today, tomorrow and in the future.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has created a single, joined-up, phased plan to not just combat the current issues but also look at how the industry could effectively recover once the lockdown is eased.

The STERG’s immediate priorities are to support businesses by providing information and reassurance; safeguarding employment; and helping them access financial assistance to maintain cashflow and secure a viable future.

Download the action plan from VisitScotland's website

The STERG consists of COSLA, HIE, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and chaired by VisitScotland.